Scholars of Norse mythology determined that February 22 of this year was supposed to be the date of Ragnarok, the Vikings’ (frankly pretty awesome) version of the apocalypse. Fortunately we were spared, but it might be time to brush up on your swordsmanship just in case. And if you need to fend off frost giants, or anything else for that matter, there is no better blade to have with you than an Ulfberht.
Ulfberht was a legendary Viking sword, one of the best pre-modern weapons ever made. It was not a single sword, like Excalibur, or a type of sword, like a katana. Ulfberht was actually more like a brand name, only instead of signifying your wealth or trendiness, it signified your ability to kick ass on the battlefield. The name comes from the inscription found on the blade, +ULFBERH+T, which makes them easy to identify and also forms one of Ulfberht’s mysteries.
Ulfberht is assumed to be a Frankish word, though its meaning is unknown. The word may be a “word of power”; which is a word not part of normal language that Vikings believed to be magical. Or perhaps it is a contraction or a portmanteau of some other words that we do not know. The word does resemble a mashup of the Norse word “ulfr,” meaning wolf and the Saxon word “beraht,” meaning bright or shining. So, carrying an Ulfberht may have meant that not only would you survive in a fight, but that you could brag about doing it brandishing a “shining wolf.”
A popular theory is that Ulfberht is the name of a workshop, or the family name of its creator. We know that Ulfberht is not the name of a single smith who crafted each blade, because the swords were crafted over a period of 200 years. So the sword must have either been created by a number of people from the same family or community, or possibly by a Highlander.
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